DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters, or I would own a 17in ibook instead of this windows machine. This is not for profit; please don't copy or post without asking. It involves two women in love, hence fitting in perfectly with my view of the universe; if it doesn't fit in with yours or if you are underage, please leave now. If you live where reading this is illegal, please move ASAP (Seattle has great coffee). Spoilers for multiple episodes from season 4 that are referenced in the diary, and then this story departs from canon shortly thereafter. Feedback is greatly appreciated; thanks to all who wrote encouraging words after my first story.
THANKS: to my permanent movie buddy Commasplice. Thank you for the beta read and the help with story ideas.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Princess' Diaries
By Raktajino


Chapter I

"C'mon, Natalie, aren't you ready to leave yet? The movie starts in 15 minutes, and I really want to get popcorn."

"I'm sorry, Tootie, I don't think I can go. I am way behind on this paper. The rough draft is due tomorrow, and I've barely started."

"But you've been working on the paper for the last 5 weeks. What do you mean you haven't started?"

"No, I've been working on the article for the journalism portion of the class, which I turned in last Friday. I totally forgot about the creative writing part... well, I didn't exactly forget, but it is just a short story; I mean, how long should it take?"

"I'm guessing longer than 15 minutes."

"Yeah, I'm sorry Tootie. I just have to impress this teacher because she runs the journalism program at Langley College, and I really want to be on her staff when I go there next year. I need to make a lasting impression."

"Well, not turning in this story would make an impression."

"Not that kind of impression, Tootie. I just really need to get this done and in. The best submissions in all categories have the chance to be published in the First Year Guide to Composition that all the freshmen have to buy. It would count as a publication. I think my article has a real chance, but there is no way she'll submit it if I don't turn in this story and finish the class."

"OK, but you're taking me to the movie next weekend. Your treat."

"Sounds fair. You want to give me a hand?"

"I'm not the one who decided to waste her summer taking a writing course for college credit; especially not before we are even in college. We're in high school, Nat. We're supposed to have fun during summer. In fact, I'm wasting precious minutes of my summer as we speak. I'm going to go see if Mrs. Garrett made some cookies and then I am going to the mall."

"Fine. Have a good time. Don't feel bad about leaving your best friend here all by herself, struggling to make a mark on the world of journalism."

"Okay, I won't. Bye." Tootie headed through the back door of the kitchen on her way out of the house.

Natalie sighed and went back to her still empty sheet of paper, pulling her lucky pen once more from behind her ear and sitting poised to write. Two minutes later, she put it back behind her ear. 'What kind of assignment is this for a journalist anyway? Creative Writing. I mean, reporters get into trouble if they do too much creative writing. Hmmm…maybe a quick break, just to stretch my legs.'

An hour later, Natalie found herself up in her bedroom having accomplished some quality television channel flipping, cookie consumption and much doodling on her supply of notebook paper. With regards to her assignment she had not, however, accomplished more than her name written extremely neatly in the upper right hand corner of an otherwise clean sheet of paper. She re-read the assignment for the eightieth time, going over the requirement checklist again in her head. 'Hmmm… No more than 4 pages… I have that covered so far. Name on paper…check. Now, a short narrative written about a subject you wouldn't normally write about, something out of my experience. How am I supposed to write a creative story about a subject that I wouldn't usually write about? I mean, journalists are supposed to write what they know. What I need is inspiration. The T.V. was worthless… unless I want to write 4 pages on the mating habits of termites. Hmmm… nope, not quite that desperate yet. Where would I come up with inspiration from someone who sees things totally different than I do?'

Natalie's eyes wandered about the room, and then landed on Blair's bed. Natalie knew that Blair had purchased a stylish new journal for her ruminations during her family's trip to Paris, having decided that her old pink diary was much too blasé for a high school graduate, soon-to-be college freshman. Natalie also knew that Ms. Warner, in her haste to pack after graduation, had most likely forgotten to ransom her old diary from its most recent hiding place. Natalie dove under her wealthy friend's mattress and came up with her intended treasure. "Bingo," Natalie exclaimed happily as she sat down to read.

With an experienced hand, Natalie picked the small lock with the tip of her lucky pen (Bullwinkle's antler made a perfect skeleton key for such occasions). Natalie skimmed past the passages from earlier in Blair's senior year, where this volume in Blair's collection of diaries started off. Natalie had already read through Thanksgiving, since she had had some time to kill that long holiday weekend, but she realized she hadn't done any serious snooping in the treasured tome ever since. Natalie flipped through the pages, rolling her eyes as Blair went on about her trials and tribulations dealing with everything from morning hair to a (gasp!) less than perfect complexion the morning of her date with Robert Thergood III. Just as Nat was about to toss aside the superficial ramblings of the blonde beauty, she noticed an entry which caught her attention.

December 13, 1982

I think all this stress with daddy and the audit is really getting to me. I've had a hard time sleeping. When I do sleep, I have had the strangest dreams.

Especially that dream I had again last night; actually, it was the third time this week. I was a princess, and there was to be a grand party in my honor. I was dressed for the ball, looking fabulous as usual in a scrumptious powder blue gown which perfectly accentuated my gorgeous blonde hair. I glided down the spiral staircase from the upper floor to the gathering below, and all eyes in the room turned towards me… naturally. Suddenly, the crowd parted, and there stood my dashing young suitor on the other end of the room, dressed simply divinely in a white pressed shirt and black silk pants. But when my betrothed-to-be looked up and blue eyes gazed into mine, I realized that my prince was really a woman. And she looked exactly like Jo.

The even stranger thing was, I wasn't surprised. Everyone else in the room faded away as she made her way across the room and took my hand in hers. She kissed it gently, and asked for the pleasure to this dance. She led us in a waltz as the other couples in the room fell in step. She held me firmly as she guided me through dance after dance, never missing a step, her gaze never leaving mine. As the music slowed, she closed the distance between us and I brought my head to rest on her shoulder. We continued to move slowly about the room long after the music stopped, each of us unwilling to break our embrace and end the magical moment. At last, I pulled away enough to look her in the eyes once more. In those eyes, I saw love. With tears building in my own eyes, I bent my head down to bring my lips to her own waiting ones. Just as I started to feel the warmth of her soft, yielding lips against my own… I awoke to Natalie hitting Tootie over the head and Tootie landing on top of my lower legs in her frantic attempt to escape the onslaught. Sigh. I would have screamed, but then they might have noticed the flush on my cheeks out of proportion to the slightly chilly temperature in the room.

What does this all mean? I know the obvious interpretation. I have been in a slight dating slump lately, but am I really so desperate that I would think about dating women? Not just women, but Jo, of all people? I mean, if I was going to date women, which I most assuredly am not, I would pick someone beautiful, and intelligent, and kind, and… well, OK, so Jo is all those things. Oh my God, did I just write that?

Natalie's eyes widened to twice their normal size. 'BLAIR LIKES JO? Ooohh… This is better than television… it's like cable.' The nosy young writer continued to read:

December 16, 1982

I just re-read my last entry. Actually, it was all I thought about the last three days, despite everything else going on with daddy and finals and such. I should burn this diary; if she reads these last couple of pages, she would never let me hear the end of it. I mean, she must know she is cute, especially in that black leather jacket with her hair all pulled back and those tight denim jeans. But it is when no one else is looking, when she is getting ready for bed and lets her hair down from the ponytail; she goes from cute to beautiful.

I don't remember when I first noticed. I mean, sure, when she first walked into Eastland's dining room… but Nat had the same thoughts when she supposed that our leather-clad stranger was a guy. The difference was, Nat's crush instantly faded the second she found out the truth. Mine never did… at least, not completely.

I spent a long time trying to convince myself that I didn't feel that way at all. Then trying to hate her. Then I spent even longer telling myself that everyone had fleeting thoughts about their best friend, and that such feelings didn't mean anything. Lately, though… I have started to realize the truth. I mean, I am pretty sure that Tootie doesn't exactly have these thoughts about Nat.

'Ewwww… Now that just wasn't necessary Blair. Thanks for the visual that will have me in therapy until I'm thirty.' Natalie stirred for a second and listened for a moment to see if she was still alone in the house. She shifted from a seated position to one fully extended on her stomach on Blair's bed; then she went back to the next entry.

So, here I am. I have certain… feelings… for my best friend. How is this possible? Some days, I just want things to go back to the way they used to be. I know if I went to my parents, they would find a doctor or a psychiatrist who might be able to get my mind off of her and onto some nice, eligible, rich, handsome man. But then, most days, I think… why on earth would I want to do that? Jo is everything someone could want in a girlfriend. How could loving someone that wonderful possibly be wrong? I don't think I want to be "fixed." I want Jo.

I'm rambling because I'm tired, and I definitely need some sleep. Maybe I'll dream about something happy…maybe we can skip the dancing all together.

"Geez Blair…" Natalie muttered aloud. She leafed through the next few entries, skimming Blair's account of "the mistake that was Chad Broxton," concentrating much less on the debutante's prattling on about his finer points and paying more attention to the later entries once Blair realized the true nature of "Mr. Wonderful."

January 23, 1983

I don't think I can write much about this tonight. It is too painful, and I really just want to go to sleep and forget I ever had anything to do with Chad. I hope my friends can forgive me for how I acted. Especially Jo. God, I can't believe I hurt her like that. I will never forget that look in her eyes.

If only I could explain to her why I went out with him in the first place, why I tried so hard to be exactly what he wanted me to be. Because darn it, that is what I should be able to be: the perfect girlfriend of a perfect, handsome, rich, sophisticated gentleman. Only Chad wasn't so perfect… or even a gentleman for that matter. He was a boorish egotistical jerk. It just took me forever to see that because I was so invested in making this work, in proving to myself that I could be in a nice, normal relationship. And the harder he made it, and the worse the relationship got, the more convinced I was that it was all because of me… because I am different. I just knew that if I tried a little harder, that I could be the perfect girlfriend that he wanted. And If I could do that, then I could be the same as everyone else and then everything would be okay.

But I'm not the same as everybody else. And I am not sure everything will ever be okay.

Now everyone would assume it is just because Chad was such a creep. Unfortunately, I can't really blame him… Not for this, at least. I just don't feel the same way about guys… any guy… as I do about Jo. The woman who frustrates me most in the world can make my heart do back flips with one of those little crooked smiles of hers.

I can't deal with this right now. I just need to take it a day at a time, and hope that Jo will really forgive me for everything I put her through. Deep down, I know she will. I just can't wait to see her really smile at me again.

"Boy, you've got it bad, Blair. Okay, now where's the good stuff." Natalie leafed through the subsequent pages. "Let's see… blah, blah, blah… shoes, white sale, more shoes, plans to go to with Buffy or Muffy or Tuffy or whoever's house for the weekend… ah, here we go." Nat pushed herself from her prone position and grabbed Jo's pillow off her bed to help prop herself up as she sat up once more.

February 20, 1983

Oh my God… A nun?!? Jo Polniaczek? This just simply cannot happen. I have to talk to her… to say, well, anything. It is one thing for cousin Meg, it is simply another for Jo.

I know she's been unhappy lately, restless. She hasn't been the same since Ms. Gallagher left. I should have talked to her that night. I just… she had already found Mrs. Garrett by the time I made it down stairs, and Mrs. G was holding her and…I have never seen Jo cry like that before. I left before Jo knew I was there. She was in good hands, and I didn't want her to know I had seen her like that. She tries so hard to come across as so invulnerable. I felt as though I had intruded on her innermost feelings, like I had read her diary or something.

Natalie chose to ignore the comment entirely and continued reading, much too enthralled to stop now.

I knew Ms. Gallagher meant a lot to her, I just never knew how much until I heard her talking with Mrs. Garrett. Even though it was obviously one sided, it really sounded as though Jo had a crush on Ms. Gallagher. Afterwards, though, it wasn't like I could say, 'So Jo, what's this about having feelings for Gail.' I just kept silent… and now it might be too late.

It would be hard enough to have her leave to run off with some guy, or to join a motorcycle gang, but this would simply be too much. I refuse to be in love with a nun.

Did I just write that? In love? I guess… yeah, I guess I am. I have to go talk to her RIGHT NOW.

February 27, 1983

Okay, she didn't do it. She actually listened to me, Blair Warner, for advice. That alone deserves a big ol' gold star on the calendar. And I even did it without having to tell her how I feel. I mean, I almost did… I came really close to just pushing aside my fear and opening up my heart to her. But I was afraid if she didn't feel the same way, that would definitely push her over the edge and into the convent. And if she did feel the same way, well…no, that is just impossible. But at least she didn't leave forever this week… And as long as she is still around, I suppose anything is possible.

Natalie strained to read the last few words of the paragraph and realized that the room had gotten very dark. "Oh my goodness, what time is it? I better speed this up a bit; Mrs. G and Tootie will both be back any minute." She flipped to the last couple of pages and began to read.

May 4, 1983

I did it; I graduated. Not that there was any doubt, of course. I looked fabulous in my graduation outfit, with the most precious shoes. Jo even said something about my outfit, about how it wasn't the most hideous thing she had ever seen. That was Jo-speak for 'you look simply divine.'

In fact, one of the best things about graduation has been that Jo and I have gotten to spend some real time together. I know, we spend most of our time together, given that we live in the same house and share a bedroom and all. But over the last few days, we have actually gotten to talk like we haven't in quite some time. And all of this quality time has brought us closer than we have ever been before.

I will never forget her look at graduation, when I read her speech. She had no idea what I was going to do. It felt so wonderful to make her that happy.

After the ceremony, when we were getting ready to go out for our respective celebrations, she pulled me into a back room. Jo (of the eternal snide comments) was entirely speechless. There was a depth in her eyes I haven't quite noticed there before… and I have spent a lot of time looking into those eyes (and even more time dreaming about them). With one look she made me forget there were parents, and ceremonies, and gifts (yes, even the diamond tennis bracelet). When she reached up to fix my collar from the front, it was like that dream I had a few months ago; everyone else just seemed to fade into the background, and in that moment, it was just us.

That was when it almost happened. I almost did it. I was just about to lean forward, caught up in that magical moment, and I was positive that she was going to decide to lean toward me and meet me halfway… when my mother's voice called my name as her heels echoed in the hall as she came towards us. I could have killed someone. Jo immediately looked down, taking a sudden interest in the shine of her shoes. I continued my head's forward motion just enough to bring my hand to my mouth, finishing a little, polite, fake cough as if that had been what I intended all along. We both backed away from each other as my mother came charging into the room in her usual stately manner.

The rest of the day was a blur. The celebration afterward was wonderful, but none of it compared to what almost was just a few hours ago. She actually might not have pulled away. Of course, we didn't have time to talk about anything afterward; she left for the Bronx for the summer, and I am leaving shortly to start my own post-high school summer extravaganza.

I just wish we'd had the chance to talk… just for one minute before she left. You know, before today, it never occurred to me that Jo might actually feel the same way about me that I do about her. Of course, sure I fantasize about it. But tonight, for the first time, I dared hope it might actually be possible. Now I have to wait an entire summer before I see her again. Oh well, maybe it will give me a chance to think about what I really want to say. Three whole months… if I just wasn't going to be out of the country the whole time…

"Natalie. Tootie. Anybody home?" Mrs. Garrett's voice snapped Natalie back to the present. She tossed the diary quickly under Blair's mattress where she had found it and scurried downstairs to help Mrs. Garrett unpack the groceries, her mind going a million miles an hour as she began to formulate the ideas in her head into the beginnings of a story.


Chapter II

"Hiya, princess. What's going on?"

Blair turned from admiring her reflection in the bookstore window, tossing her hair back as she executed a perfect pivot. Her smile broadened into one reflecting genuine happiness as she caught a glimpse of her approaching friend. An answering grin came back from the brunette coed as she unceremoniously dropped her backpack onto the ground next to her. "Hi Jo, how was your summer?"

"Same ol' stuff. Caught up with some of the old gang. Kind of glad to be back, though. I missed… you know, Mrs. G and everybody."

"Yeah, me too. So are you ready to tackle the bookstore? The lines are already back to the far wall, and I have so many more essentials to buy before classes start next week."

"Essentials? Let me guess... shoes?"

Blair gave her an exasperated sigh. "Oh Jo, you don't know the half of it. Not just shoes anymore. We are in college now; I have so many outfits to purchase and accessorize. Why, the sorority I want to join has three formal welcoming ceremonies the first week alone… there is the afternoon tea, and the semiformal mixer, and then the brunch in the garden. I simply didn't have enough luggage to bring back enough from Europe to make it past the first few days."

Jo almost sprained a facial muscle as she fought to keep from rolling her eyes. "Okay, I get the picture. I have better places to be too. So come on, Warner, and let's get this over with."

An hour later, Jo and Blair found themselves in the back of the long lines leading to the cash register. Jo looked at Blair with the barest hint of admiration in her gaze.

"I can't believe we got through this store so fast, and with every book we needed. Pretty impressive the way you elbowed those two girls out of the way to get at the last two copies of The Odyssey."

"And you said shopping wasn't a real talent. These amateurs had no chance against any real competition; I mean, you haven't shopped until you have attempted the cashmere sweater table at the Sax 5th Avenue annual sale. I've been every year since I was old enough to tell silk from rayon."

Jo laughed and lowered the now-heavy hand-held basket with a thump onto the well-worn tile floor. "I guess I picked the right person to come with; you are just lucky this store doesn't have a penalty box for roughhousing." She nudged the basket with the toe of her boot as the line inched forward, reaching down and grabbing the smallest book off the large pile. "I can't believe how many books there are for each class. At least this one is small, and it has pretty big print. Hmm… First Year Guide to Composition."

Jo was just starting to thumb through the lightweight paperback when Blair grabbed her arm and whispered loudly in her ear, "Jo, pick up the basket right now." Jo barely had time to grab the metal handles when Blair grabbed her arm and whisked her off to the far corner of the store. Jo's confused look turned to one of amusement as Blair deposited her in front of the clerk at the far cash register, who was just removing the "Closed" sign from the small conveyer belt to indicate the opening up of another checkout line. Groans and a shuffling of feet resounded as the store's less consumer-savvy patronage scrambled to fall behind the line now led by the blonde co-ed and her friend. Jo smirked and acknowledged the accomplishment with a nod as Blair threw back her blonde hair and presented her credit card for her own purchases with an embellished flourish.

"Well, Blair, looks like we've both got enough time to finish our other errands now," Jo remarked as she reclaimed her backpack from the lockers at the front of the store. "Nice moves in there. Thanks."

Blair waited for the smart remark that she usually anticipated following such a compliment from Jo, but there was none. Despite herself, the blonde beamed. Jo looked up from transferring her books to her backpack. She noticed Blair's reaction, and was struck by how good it made her feel to be able to make Blair smile like that. She found the next words spilling out of her mouth in response before she could stop them.

"Wanna, maybe, meet up later for dinner or something, if you aren't busy."

"I'd love to, Jo. Where were you thinking?"

"How about the café in that new shopping center that just opened. The one with the fountain out front?"

"Sounds great. There are a few stores there I was dying to check out anyway. How about six?"

"Okay, see you there." Jo shouldered her pack and the two friends headed off towards their respective vehicles to make the most of their now free afternoon.

Jo arrived at the small but elegant restaurant early, having accomplished her short list ahead of schedule. She was seated at a table on the enclosed porch, white Christmas lights bordering the support beams. As she sat, lost in thought, a familiar voice interrupted her musings; several assorted shopping bags were suddenly dumped next to her chair.

"Hi Jo, sorry I'm a little late. What are you thinking about?"

"Umm… nothing." Blair thought she caught the faint hint of a blush on Jo's cheeks, but dismissed it as Jo asked about her afternoon.

"It was fabulous. I found some great sales. Did you know they have a Victoria's Secret here now?"

The apparently innocent comment caused Jo to inhale sharply at the same time she was sipping her water. The action sent Jo into a coughing fit; she turned an unusual shade of chartreuse as she struggled to reclaim her larynx for air. Blair patted her on the back, remorseful for causing her friend's distress, although oblivious as to the trigger. As Jo began to regain her normal color and the coughing subsided, Blair sat down across from her.

"Sorry, Jo. I didn't mean to startle you. Are you okay?"

"No problem," Jo wheezed. "I'm glad you had a good time."

"It isn't the streets of Paris, but this new mall definitely increased the shopping potential of the area. How about you, did you have a good afternoon?"

"Yeah, I got some stuff done. Still don't feel quite ready to start classes tomorrow, though."

"Me neither. We don't have to worry about that tonight, though." Blair looked around, admiring the décor. "What a cute little bistro. You picked a great little place to eat."

"They had a flyer up at Pep Boys." Jo deadpanned. Blair stared at her for an instant and then chuckled, picking up her menu to begin her perusal.

"I am so late you must have the menu memorized. So what are you going to have?"

"Ummm… yeah." Jo glanced down at her still-closed menu. "I thought the burger sounded good."

Blair glanced down at her own menu and read the description of Jo's selection, smiling faintly. "I have to admit, I'm surprised. Never thought I would see the day when Jo Polniaczek would eat a tofu burger with a side of sweet potato fries."

Jo glanced up at Blair with a confused expression, then opened her menu and read the selection. "Uh, well, I thought it was time to start eating healthier; you know."

Blair just looked at her friend, an amused expression on her face; the panic in Jo's eyes confirmed her suspicions that Jo hadn't been reading the menu at all before she arrived. She wondered what had preoccupied her friend's thoughts, and decided to let her off the hook.

"Umm, Jo. I hate to disappoint you, but I think I heard them say they were out of tofu burgers as I was coming in. You might have to settle for something else."

"Oh, darn. Okay." The brunette looked visible relieved. "Maybe the corn chowder and a salad, then. This place has some… different selections, doesn't it?"

"Looks like. Vegetarian cuisine is definitely different than the average fare in Peakskill. Hard to believe we are only 20 minutes away." She smiled at her friend. Blair dropped her voice to a conspiratorial tone, "I think they make up for some of their deficiencies, though, with the dessert section. I passed the tray on the way in."

Jo smiled, and the duo ordered when the waiter approached. They enjoyed an easy, comfortable banter throughout dinner and on into dessert. Jo ordered the chocolate mousse and Blair ordered the low fat lemon chiffon. Jo noted that her dark chocolate decadence disappeared much more rapidly than Blair's dessert, as a second fork wielded by her attractive dinner companion helped Jo polish off her selection. Jo smiled and rested her fork next to the plate, indicating her request for a refill on her coffee with a nod to the waiter. She sat back in her chair, enjoying the ambience and the companionable silence. Blair looked up and caught her gaze.

"This has been really a lovely evening Jo. Thank you for suggesting it."

"Yeah, well, it's just that we're starting classes tomorrow, and I know that we won't always have time to hang out like we used to. Don't get me wrong, not that I'm complaining about having more space and stuff. But I kind of got used to having you…" Jo flustered slightly, then continued hastily. "You know, I mean you and Nat and Tootie around… even if you do drive me crazy, and all."

"I know what you mean. Well, we'll just have to make a point to see each other every so often. You know, for dinner and such."

Jo looked down and idly played with her fork. "Okay. You can pencil me… I mean us… in around all your sorority activities."

"Hey." Jo looked back up at Blair as the blonde spoke. "One, I haven't even made it in yet… although we know this whole selection process is just a formality. Two, it will be those guys who will have to work around you in my schedule. Your friendship is important to me, Jo. Yours, and Natalie's and Tootie's… I don't want to drift apart just because we are at college."

"Don't worry. We'll bug you so much you'll be sick of us in no time. After all, you and I even have English 101 together, so we're guaranteed to see each other." Jo glanced down at her watch. "Oh, speaking of which, I'm never going to get up for my 7:30 as it is tomorrow. We should probably get going."

Jo stood and picked up the majority of the packages in order to help Blair out to her car. As the pair walked, Jo noted that the air had turned chilly. Jo dropped the packages onto the sidewalk for a moment and removed her well-worn jacket. Blair shivered a little, only to find a warm leather jacket draped about her shoulders. When they reached Blair's car, Jo loaded the packages into the trunk and then held open Blair's door as the blonde got in. Jo waved as the blonde drove off, giving a little honk as she left the parking lot. Neither noticed that Blair had not returned Jo's jacket until they had gone their separate ways.

Blair drifted off to sleep that night cuddling a pillow draped with a warm leather coat that insured pleasant dreams.


Chapter III

Nat and Tootie awoke to the sound of Natalie's alarm and to the smell of fresh-baked croissants. The advantage of living over the kitchen of the newly-opened gourmet food shop was that the smells were often more enticing than those that came from the old school cafeteria. The definite downside was that Mrs. Garrett was very protective of her new creations for her paying customers; the girls often ended up eating cold cereal while Mrs. G bustled about the kitchen and fretted over her culinary achievements. They knew things were bound to change as the business took off and Mrs. G began to relax, but right now Nat and Tootie felt it was some peculiar form of torture.

They got dressed and ready for school, and again they found themselves downstairs with more than a few minutes to spare. Even after three weeks back in school, neither Natalie nor Tootie had yet gotten accustomed to not having to allow extra time for four girls to share one tiny bathroom. They munched their Frosted Flakes and covertly exchanged pieces of the warm croissant that Tootie had snuck from the kitchen when Mrs. G wasn't looking, each thinking the house was just too quiet. They almost missed Jo complaining about Blair taking over Jo's tiny allotment of closet space with yet another outfit because "no one cared if Jo's clothes were wrinkled since that was what people expected." They definitely missed Blair's distressed exclamations regarding Jo knocking her toothbrush into the toilet after the aforementioned comment. They weren't quite yet desperate enough to miss Jo's snoring or Blair's giggling in her sleep, but they were almost there.

As she picked up her jacket, Natalie glanced down at the small pile of mail which had been left on the hall table the day before. Natalie noticed her name on the top piece of mail, and picked it up. She saw that it had been mailed to an incorrect address and re-mailed, the original postmark dating some two months ago. Nat tore open the letter, and a check fell out. She promptly began yelling and jumping up and down as she read the first paragraph. Tootie dropped her spoon and came running over to see what the commotion was about.

"Tootie. They published it. I'm published. I am a published author."

"Nat, that's great…what are you talking about?"

"The First Year Guide to Composition. They published my article as an example of excellent writing for all freshmen in COLLEGE to emulate. Look, they even sent a check for $25. I wonder if it is possible to cash and frame the same check. Do they bronze paper?"

Tootie read through the letter that her best friend had handed her while Natalie danced around the couch with the check. "So, your article was called the Princess's Diaries? What was it about?"

Natalie stopped dancing and stared at Tootie, the check floating forgotten to the ground. "WHAT?" Natalie grabbed the sheet of paper from Tootie's grasp, her eyes scanning to the bottom of the page for the first time. "There must be some mistake. It must be a misprint. They couldn't have published that. They just must have switched the titles." Natalie started pacing and rambling incoherently, much to Tootie's chagrin.

"Natalie, what's wrong. Did they publish someone else's article by mistake?"

"No, Tootie, they… Ohmigosh-she-is-going-to-kill-me-we-have-to-do-something."

"What's wrong, Nat?"

"C'mon Tootie. Forget class this morning. We have a life or death situation on our hands… MY life or death. We have to go to Langley now. I'll explain on the way."

"Are you sure about this Nat? I mean, we aren't exactly her roommates anymore. Isn't this like breaking and entering?"

"We found where she hides her spare key at Mrs. G's so there is no breaking, just a little entering. Besides, are you going to let a tiny misdemeanor stand in the way of your best friend's survival?"

"Misdemeanor? Isn't this a felony?"

"Whatever, Tootie, just come on. We don't have much time before Blair gets back. We have to find that book."

"I still can't believe that you stole your story from Blair's diary, and they published it."

"Hey… borrowed a vague idea, at best. The story was still mine…mostly… kind of. It took a creative genius to turn her ramblings into a published work of art." Nat got only a raised eyebrow in response from her partner in crime. "Oh, just come on Tootie."

The duo snuck into the dorm room and began rummaging through its contents, taking care not to disturb things more than necessary.

"Do you really think she would be that mad, even if she found out? I mean, this is Blair… she might be kind of flattered. Don't all the really cool, famous people have tell-all books published about them? Maybe we should just get out of here and you can tell her the whole thing," Tootie offered hopefully.

Natalie glared at Tootie. "Okay… Tootie, less talk, more searching… wait, here it is. Oooh, look Tootie, it's my name. In print." Natalie sat down and began to read the submission. Tootie tapped her on the shoulder.

"Umm… Nat."

"Huh? Oh, yeah. But isn't it cool. My name is in print. We have to stop by the bookstore and grab a few copies. You know, for the relatives and stuff."

"That will be hard if we are IN JAIL. Now come on, Nat. Let's get going before Blair comes back... Just grab the book and lets get out of here."

"No, Tootie. We can't take the whole book. Blair will just go get another copy." She pulled out her exacto knife. "We just need to edit this one."

While Nat thumbed through the copy in search of her essay, Tootie peered out the room's small window. On the front sidewalk, she noticed a certain blonde co-ed making her way up to the entrance of the dormitory. Tootie ducked and crawled over to where Natalie was sitting on the floor.

"NAT!" Tootie whispered loudly. "We have to get out of here. Right now. Blair's back."

"What? C'mon." Nat grabbed the entire book and carried it with them as she and Tootie scurried down the back stairs just as Blair made her way up the front ones. As they reached the street, both Nat and Tootie breathed sighs of relief. "So, Nat, are we going to go get Jo's copy now?"

"Are you kidding? Break into Jo's room? I would rather take my chances with Blair finding out, thank you very much. Besides, what are the chances that Blair will read Jo's copy?" Tootie didn't look entirely convinced, but headed toward the car with her longtime friend.

Mrs. Garrett bustled about the kitchen, whistling a happy tune. She finally had all her girls back under the same roof again, even if it was just for a few hours. Blair had come over for dinner early in order to get caught up in her English class, a task which had proven difficult in her dorm room since her neighbor kept playing her Madonna album over and over again at top volume. When Blair found herself reading e.e. cummings' work to the tune of "Borderline," she had decided it was time to change locales for a little while. Jo was out working on her car, since she could spread her tools all over Mrs.G's driveway. Tootie was helping Mrs. Garrett in the kitchen by eating the cookie dough that was supposed to be making it onto cookie sheets. Nat was stretched out on the couch in the living room near where Blair was pouring over her texts on the kitchen table.

As Nat thumbed through her magazine, she happened to glance over to where Blair was working. She idly noticed Blair rummaging through her bag and was about to wander into the kitchen for a drink when she noticed Blair pull out a thin gray paperback. With sudden renewed interest, she wandered over to where Blair was studying.

"Hey Blair. Whatcha doing?"

"Hmm? Oh, just trying to get caught up in my English class. You wouldn't believe how much work there is to do. We have a short fiction assignment, and my teacher helped edit and publish this guide to composition, so I thought I would look at it for some ideas."

"Oooh, let me see." Nat came over grabbed the book from Blair's hand. "Hmm…you know, Blair, this book looks like a waste of your time; purely amateur stuff. I'm sure you can come up with MUCH better ideas than the stuff in this book. In fact, why don't you just let me throw this one away for you."

Blair snatched her textbook back before Natalie could escape with it. "No, thank you. I'm just looking for ideas about style and composition. I'm sure these will be adequate, since the teacher liked them enough to include them in this book. Besides, this is the second copy I had to buy since I lost my first one. I'm not letting this one out of my sight until I am done with the class. Now if you will excuse me, I have quite a bit of work to do before dinner."

Nat sighed and thought furiously. 'Ok, ok…must get book away from Blair. Let's see…fake a heart attack…no, would scare Mrs. Garrett…set off fire alarm…no, no matches handy…ooh…I know.'

Natalie sauntered over to the window and peered out. "Hmm, sure is sunny out there. Hope she doesn't get burned," she offered loudly enough to distract the blonde.

"What?" asked Blair distractedly.

"Hmm? Oh, nothing. I was just hoping she doesn't get a sunburn. It is an awfully bright day, and she is wearing an awfully small tank top." Natalie smirked slightly, her back to Blair.

Blair looked up from her reading. "Who?"

"Jo. She is out there working on her car. It must be hard work; she is getting pretty sweaty. She had to take off her over shirt, and now her bare shoulders don't have much protection from the sun."

"Hmm…I'm sure she'll be fine." Blair had put her book down completely and was now looking in the direction of the window, although was unable to see her brunette friend from her vantage point.

"Still, I think I had better take her some cold lemonade. She must be awfully thirsty by now." Natalie took a few steps toward the kitchen. Blair arose quickly from the kitchen table and stopped Natalie in mid-stride with a hand on her am.

"You know, Nat, I could use a break. You're right, that book isn't that helpful anyway. I'm really thirsty and was going to fix a drink myself, so why don't I just go ahead and take one to Jo." Before Nat could answer, Blair scooted off in the direction of the kitchen. Nat just smiled and stuck the grey paperback into her magazine, sneaking it up the stairs.

While Natalie was painstakingly cutting her story out from Blair's book with an exacto knife, leaving the rest of the contents intact, Blair prepared two glasses of cold lemonade and headed with them out the back door. She found Jo bent over the engine, listening to music through headphones as she worked. Since Jo was apparently oblivious to her friend's presence, Blair stood there for a moment, admiring the view from behind. She slowly walked towards Jo, drawn by an almost irresistible urge to caress that tight, perfect butt perfectly accentuated by those form-fitting jeans. As she grew closer to the brunette, Blair's breathing became shallower and more rapid, and she could feel her blood redistributing to other portions of her anatomy. She stood just behind Jo, letting her imagination carry her into a brief daydream involving grabbing Jo at the waist and moving her hands around to the front, allowing them to roam as she pressed her body up against Jo's back.

Feeling somewhat flushed, Blair wiped one of the cold glasses across her own forehead. As she brought it back down, Jo partially stood up under the hood, the back of her neck coming into contact with the bottom of the frosty glass. Jo yelped and stood up fully, hitting the back of her head against the underside of the hood. "Damn," she exclaimed as she backed up from the car. She took off the headphones and rubbed the back of her head where it had impacted the hood. She turned around to find a flustered blonde holding two glasses.

"Geez, Blair. Whatcha' tryin' to do, kill me? What are you doing out here?"

"Umm… you looked hot. I mean, you looked overheated, and I thought you could use some lemonade," Blair stammered as she thrust the glass towards her friend.

"Thanks, I think," answered Jo, still rubbing the sore spot with one hand.

"Sorry about your head. Guess you couldn't hear me, with your headphones and all."

"Yeah. That's okay." Jo took a long drink. "That tastes great."

Blair smiled softly.

"Hey, have you been out here long?" Jo asked.

"No, not at all." Blair answered quickly. "Why?"

"Just thought you might be getting a little burned. Your face is awfully red. You feeling okay?"

"Yeah, fine. Just warm out here, is all. I better get back in and help Mrs. Garrett finish dinner. It should be ready soon. I'll send Tootie out to get you when it is ready."

As the blonde made a hasty retreat into the relative sanctuary of Edna's Edibles, Jo just stared after her friend with a confused expression on her face. "Women," she muttered, and went back to her task at hand.

Blair leaned against the back door that she had hastily closed behind her. 'Okay, Warner, get a grip.' Blair mentally admonished herself. 'You are making a fool out of yourself. You get so flushed you can barely speak when you get within ten feet of her. And she seems to have no trouble speaking whatsoever. Not so much as a stutter.' The blonde sighed. 'I don't know what I was thinking. There is no way she can possibly feel the same way about me that I do about her. I just hope she doesn't ever guess how I feel; I couldn't stand to lose her as a friend.'

The sullen blonde gathered herself and went into the kitchen to help with the preparations, trying to push all thoughts of unrequited love from her mind.

Part 4

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